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Dr. Willi Reich 1932
THIS is the second of the monographs to be issued by the magazine, M ODERN M USIC. The publication of the series was undertaken last year as a means of bringing before the public certain important studies which require treatment longer than a magazine article permits and shorter than is prescribed by the usual book length. It is hoped that the appearance from time to time of such “handy manuals” as this one may encourage the development of a special and interesting type of music literature. Dr. Willi Reich, the author of A Guide to Wozzeck, is one of the best known critics of Central Europe. Intimate association with Alban Berg, Arnold Sch¨ nberg and their group, and a detailed research into their works have made him an outstanding o authority on the music of the Viennese school. In addition to being widely recognized as one of the most scholarly commentators on contemporary music, writing for the journals of Holland, France, England, Germany and Austria, he is a performer on the clarinet and a Doctor of Engineering.—[Ed.]
ALBAN BERG was born in Vienna, February 9, 1885, and except for a few brief journeys has spent his whole life in that city. His musical talent, apparent at an early age, developed for a time without schooling. But in 1904 he ﬁrst met Arnold Sch¨ nberg who was destined to be his only teacher and his friendly adviser Through him he gained a o thorough knowledge of the composer’s craft and that idealistic conception of art which lifts Sch¨ nberg’s circle above o the party conﬂicts of the modem musical scene. Contemporary with Sch¨ nberg, a shining star had risen on the horizon of the art world in the person of Gustav o Mahler, whose renown at the time was chieﬂy that of operatic reformer and conductor. Mahler’s own compositions, on the other hand, were known to but a small group of the musical cognoscenti, among whom were Sch¨ nberg and o his followers. Throughout his career Berg has retained a warm admiration for the personality and creative work of Mahler, an admiration to which he has given expression in the dedication of Wozzeck to Mahler’s widow [Alma Mahler Werfel]. Many works of Berg may be viewed as the logical development and fulﬁllment of the intentions of Mahler. He has, however, avoided slavish imitation by evolving truly original ideas in his own way. The PianoSonata in B-minor, published in 1908 already bore the unmistakable mark of his individuality, which became more pronounced in the works that followed. Almost all musical forms have been utilized by Berg, who is an extremely thorough artist, creating slowly. Four Songs, with texts by Mombert and Hebbel, followed the Piano-Sonata, Harmonically these are based on a Tristanesque chromaticism and on whole-tone successions. But the next work, a String Quartet in two movements, paves the way for that emancipation from traditional tonality which is ﬁnally achieved in the Three Orchestral Pieces, opus 6. Between these two works, Four Pieces for Clarinet and Piano and Five Songgs with Orchestral Accompaniment after Post-Card Texts by Peter Altenberg ﬁnd their respective places. These are real treasures of the art of musical miniature. Within a few measures the give exhaustive treatment to motives of the freshest inspiration. With the Three Orchestra Pieces (prelude, dance, and march) Berg reestablished himself as a composer in the larger forms.
A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck
so-called “atonal” manner of writing. composed in the summer of 1929. Hel` ne Nabowska. must praise. fosters uninterrupted creative activity. in the time of my severest artistic tribulations. “I should like to say: friendship ﬁrst. inspired me with an impression of this talent. So hail to thee. decried by its adversaries as “the technic for miniatures. after a text by Baudelaire. his co-student. that there was a time when notes which seemed mere hieroglyphics to all other musicians ﬁred my imagination. But there is really no need to hesitate. They have a characteristically brilliant sonority. whom he married in 1911. the strongest proof of my efﬁciency as a teacher? Were they not both. to the greatest self-sufﬁciency. He was one of the ﬁrst o to receive the Arts prize of the city of Vienna and the Prussian Academy of Fine Arts has made him a member. Both demand a high degree of virtuosity and possess deep profundity. the opera Lulu.” could also be utilized as the foundation of a dramatic structure of the grandest style. He has often written clever articles. to the most marvelous ﬂowering of individuality. and thereby proved conclusively that the new. The demands of friendship and of art are reconcilable here. reliable. The completely happy home-life which he owes to his wife. reveals Berg again in a lyrically dramatic vein. he created the ﬁrst extensive opera freed from the bonds of tonality. remember that I too can read music. Anton von Webern. the very best that I have found on earth? But lest you should be led to believe that only gratitude and friendship inspire this tribute. But neither these high honors nor the world-wide success of his works distract this noble and modest artist from the conviction of his mission or hinder his steady progress. . In this sense the creation and the premier production of the opera may be regarded as a deed of emancipation. yet I must say: art ﬁrst. . Consequently in this brief review of his published works (to which latter might be added Seven Songs an early piece. achieved through combinations that exploit to the fullest extent the individual properties of each instrument. and a transcription for string orchestra of a few movements from the Lyric Suite). After this great dramatic upheaval the composer again began the writing of intimate chamber-music. especially comment on and defense of the work of Sch¨ nberg. Berg’s whole existence lies anchored in his creative efforts. no.In Wozzeck. one may ﬁnd an almost complete picture of his activities so far. . for soprano and orchestra. Piano and Thirteen Winds and the Lyric Suite for String Quartet. To this period we owe such self-revealing works as the Chamber Concerto for Violin. a product of the years 1914–20. the artist may praise the friend. The friend may praise the artist. loving. a prop secure. The concert-aria The Wine. Alban Berg!” Willi Reich A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck . In the winter months e Berg is quietly active in Vienna as a teacher and as a leading member of important musical organizations. I believe that nothing ﬁner may be appended to this brief preface than the words which Arnold Sch¨ nberg addressed o to him on the occasion of the Wozzeck premiere in D¨ sseldorf (April 1930): u “I am happy to have this opportunity to pay tribute to the work and achievements of my pupil and friend. after the book by Wedekind. Are not he and our mutual friend. Alban Berg. His uneventful existence offers no material for “exciting” biographical essays. if he would be just. and indicates the direction of the forthcoming stage-work. And I am proud that my conviction and its correctness gave me the opportunity to guide this great gift to its proper goal.
will attempt only to develop from the primary emotional. however. Dr. an objective understanding of the structure of the work and of the creative method of its composer. and to a lecture given by the conductor.Georg B¨ chner (1813–1837) u Alban Berg (1885–1936) A GUIDE TO WOZZECK Introduction No contemporary opera has been more thoroughly debated than Alban Berg’s Wozzeck. Furthermore. therefore. I have gone into great detail in those places which afford an opportunity to point out such particulars as might facilitate a general understanding of the creative personality of the composer. Jalowitz. So that. divested of the characteristics of a speech and supplemented by numerous examples of the music. problems that. This paper. subjective impression. Even though we may be able today to reduce that early conﬂict of opinion to its proper proportions. 1 For example. This guide to the music drama. have no inﬂuence at all upon the tremendous ﬁnal effect which this setting of B¨ chner’s drama produces on every unprejudiced listener. Klein. a commentary on Wozzeck may be regarded as superﬂuous. Berg’s method in his Guide to Sch onberg’s Gurrelieder ¨ has been adopted here. in a connection with the Wozzeck premiere in Cologne. Berg permitted me to see the manuscript of the lecture which he delivered in advance of the premieres. the Suite and Passacaglia in the ﬁrst and fourth scenes of Act 1. due consideration was given to the fact that the parts of the opera in which Berg reverts to well-known types of structural form have been most sharply attacked and criticized 1 . which is further indebted for much of its detail to the valuable remarks of the leading expert on the Wozzeck score. (adapter of the piano score and of an unpublished analysis). u Attending many performances of Wozzeck in different parts of Germany I have found that this profound impression always rises with perfect spontaneity and that it cannot be directed by theorizing. has served as a foundation for my work. in one sense. The appearance of the piano-score in 1923 incited controversies which became passionately intense upon the occasion of the Berlin premiere. might be considered that of compilation. My task. Willi Reich A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck . H. to an excellent article by R. as the result of a number of peculiar circumstances. H. Berg’s Method Used For the analysis of individual scenes. Sch¨ fke in Melos.F. the unprecedented intensity of expression in Wozzeck continues to present many problems to an unprepared audience.
as well as Carmen. is tormented by his superior. The uniqueness and universality of these ﬁgures justify the elevating effect which song gives to words.” the primitive being. the Physician. symmetry and proportion are given to the e individual scenes and so a well-conceived. though barely expressed. and Marie. the Captain. This ﬁgure is akin to the “Pure Fool. “The poetic treatment by Berg is an adequate answer to the question: How can this dramatic fragment. close to the forces of nature. the dramatic fragment of the German poet Georg B¨ chner (1813–1837). he stabs his beloved and drowns himself. surrounded by their hidden mysteries and forced to surrender to them. Leonore in Fidelio. and by visions rising out of his fantastic reveries. who. all realistic detail is relegated to the background so that the music may freely follow its own laws. or rather by means of. despite the modernity of their musical content. all episodic. All intellectual. Orpheus. Othello. die arme Leut. of passions. what reveals them as phantoms in spite of. ﬁrst u gave Berg the idea of his opera. to mention but a few. the demon of cold. Falstaff. be made the subject of a modern opera? Indeed the sociological undercurrent Willi Reich A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck . B¨ chner’s sketchy design made an absolutely new dramaturgical treatment necesu sary. the Drum-Major. hostile to man and his soul. the Flying Dutchman. perfectly fuﬁll the old rules. who must not only suffer extreme misery but assume all the blame. From the loose concatenation of twenty-ﬁve u scenes Berg chose ﬁfteen which he grouped into three acts of ﬁve scenes each. Through apparently slight changes. Wozzeck. seek their lost origins with every power and shatter their life-force in this superhuman effort. moralizing philistinism. the embodiment of the beast in man. The heroes of tragic opera who have survived are either taken directly from the material of sagas or they are just such incarnations of elemental feelings. catastrophe. The “Pure Fool” “More signiﬁcant than the external events is what animates these people and their deeds. after. Marie is seduced by the Drum-Major. I hope that those who are seriously interested in really new music will ﬁnd that this Guide to Wozzeck has made it easier to gain a deeper understanding of one of the most signiﬁcant operas of today. “Berg’s dramaturgy condenses and clariﬁes the material. BERG’S ORGANIZATION OF THE TEXT A performance in 1914 of Wozzeck. Other considerations will be obvious from the content and arrangement of my text. He is one of those “poor in spirit” in the sense of the Gospels. materialistic science.Here it was necessary to prove decisively not only that these forms. has convinced himself of her inﬁdelity. Wozzeck. simply the poor unfortunate. which. “Thus Wozzeck has something of the force of a mythological being and for that reason is well cast as the central ﬁgure of an opera. When Wozzeck. a hundred years old. from the sme compulsion. Words cannot convey the idea. The orderly. disorientated in a later age. But Wozzeck is far more than the representative of the oppressed class. torturing uncertainty. by a physician to whom he surrenders himself for medical experiments that he may be able to support his beloved Marie and her child. becomes embodied in this ﬁgure as powerfully as any concept ever has been on the stage. but that their application to the musical interpretation of dramatic events is justiﬁed with remarkable consistency throughout the course of the stage action. d´ nouement. Thus the Captain becomes the mask of fear-tormented. He loves tenderly yet murders and. cleanses his guilty soul by suicide in the very pond where he had washed the blood from his murderous knife. This has best been analyzed in the remarks of Jalowitz and Sch¨ fke: a “The story of B¨ chner’s drama is told in a few words. Don Juan. the daring realism of the presentation. balanced drama is evolved from a naturalistic sketch. First he divides it into three parts: exposition. still outside morality.
ﬁnds its echo in modern art. on the one hand. are worked out. and catastrophe was achieved and. There were no so-called atonal works with the classical four movements of average length. piano and orchestral pieces. further. and variety. where the descent is simultaneous with the crescendo of the ﬁnal chord. for musical “coordination” is o counterbalanced by just as strong a leaning toward change. Corresponding to this close. Coherence And Variety How this unity and coherence were aimed at and acquired will become clear in the course of our study. there is a pause before the musicians begin. no symphonies. on the other. When Berg decided to write a full-length opera he faced. through it. to use a phrase of Sch¨ nberg’s. These ﬁnal chords always appear in a different form although they are made up of the same notes. the curtain rises on the third act.of the B¨ chner play is not untimely today. The curtain of Act II rises after a short orchestral introduction. by making every act steer its way toward one and the same ﬁnal chord in a sort of cadence to rest there as on a tonic. u especially of the Physician. made up u as it is of many loose and fragmentary scenes. Even when the three-part arrangement. the same convincing musical coherence not only in the small units of the individual scenes but also. The interpolated folktunes and the opportunities for the use of tone-color in various episodes must have attracted the musician. and this was the difﬁculty. and grand operas. The points at which. structural u tendency of contemporary music. Such an emphasis was arrived at. The curtain descends for the last time before the music has ceased. led by Arnold Sch¨ nberg. without the proved resource of tonality and the formal structural possibilities based upon it. preceding the music. however.” THE MUSICAL STRUCTURE AS A WHOLE In 1914. Here is where Berg the poet with sure instinct reconciles Berg the musician. In the ﬁrst scene the curtain rises immediately after the opening of the orchestra. as in the ﬁrst act. let us consider the beginnings and endings of the acts. no e provision had yet been made for musical coherence. oratorios. had just developed beyond the initial stages of the movement incorrectly known o as “atonal. in regard to harmony. To show still more clearly how this coherence. The striving for formal coherence and. When the music of this act is ﬁnished the curtain remains open on the ﬁnal scene for a short time. The grotesque element in the delineation of the characters. The method by which the poetic material is developed contains the germ cell of Berg’s music. such as songs. But there would always have been a contradiction in style between B¨ chner’s amorphous naturalism and the rigid. ﬁrst of all. especially to that of the act endings. and. Willi Reich A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck . in the complete architectonics of the whole work? Text and plot alone could not assure this unity of form. in the large units of each act. when Berg decided to compose the opera Wozzeck. unity in the dramatic action. The Viennese school. was he to obtain the same completeness. in a tonal work.” Composition in that style was limited at ﬁrst to the smaller forms. For the time being we must direct our attention to the harmonic construction. d´ nouement. a distinct repetition and fortifying of the main key is made comprehensible to the eyes and ears of the lay audience are also the place in an atonal work where the harmonic circle of a long act must be brought to a conclusion. In renouncing tonality this school had abandoned one of the strongest and most tested mediums for the construction not only of small but of large forms. certainly not for a work like B¨ chner’s Wozzeck. the situation in music was most peculiar. a problem entirely new. The justiﬁcation for these tonal differentiations lies not only in the occasional changes of dramatic situation. Then it falls. but also in demands of a purely musical nature. it descends on the last measure at the end of Act 1. toward variation in form. but before this chord sounds in a breathless pianissimo and dies away. How. which clearly divided ﬁfteen scenes into exposition. not.
although they are consistent with the dramatic content. is a completely coherent musical structure from the ﬁrst to the last measure the form of the ﬁrst and third is much freer. as an attempt to be “archaic. Berg met his requirements not only through these more or less old forms. which are similar in structure. Even here he was impelled to aim at a variety rich in contrast. Thus the second act is clearly established as the middle section. he strictly adhered in all matters pertaining to the theatre. rather loose in structure.” which won much notoriety at the beginning of the opera’s history. Thus he attempts either an almost imperceptible connection between the diverse parts of the separate musical forms. always of course in relation to the protagonist. The application to the drama then developed just as naturally as the choice of the forms selected for this purpose. Variety By Interlude A further example of the inner necessity to be as varied and many-sided as possible is present in the relatively numerous interludes resultant from so many scene changes. to which. or a combination of the two latter. While the second act. which were actually initiated much later. from which arose the necessity of creating an artistic fusion of the varied parts. which. they enclose it in what might be called a timesymmetry. even passacaglias and fugues. justifying their title of “inventions. another point may be made concerning the structure of the opera as a whole in relation to the striving for coherent form. In each of the two latter. The ﬁve scenes here are inseparably united like the movements of a symphony (in this case a dramatic symphony).” one “chord.” etc.” These two acts. The scenes of the ﬁrst act could be called a group of related character sketches. as we shall see. despite his respect for absolute music. sometimes giving it the form of a coda or at times of an introduction to that which follows. The middle act corresponds to the “B” section of the three-part form and is essentially differentiated from the two “A” sections. musically. from time to time describe a new main ﬁgure in the action.The A–B–A Formula Finally. or an often abrupt juxtaposition. in a word. The Notorious “Old Forms” From the need for musical coherence even in small details. like the two “A’s” of the three-part form encompass the middle act. 2 durchkomponieren: through-composed Willi Reich A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck . But the completeness of each of these scenes demanded a similar completeness in the music. which is. inasmuch as the ﬁrst and third acts reveal deﬁnite structural parallels. such for example as those resting for a foundation on one “tone. As a matter of fact.” It would be even more erroneous to conclude that this work has any relation to the “Back-to-Something” movements. To scatter transitions or intermezzi would not have been consistent with Berg’s idea of the music-drama.” one “rhythm. On the next page a complete dramatic and musical perspective gives the relation of all formal events in Wozzeck. The composer’s desire for musical variety and the avoidance of “durchkomponieren” 2 —the common characteristic of music drama since Wagner’s day—led him to devise a different form for every one of the many scenes. for the ﬁve loosely connected scenes there are ﬁve corresponding musical episodes also loosely connected. Shorter by far than the weightier middle act. The scenes of the third act reveal musical forms whose coherence is established by the use of certain principles of unity. much closer-knit. three-part treatment A-B-A is used. The method of constructing each of the three acts makes it clear that in the main the old reliable. of giving them musically complete forms. making the connective music sometimes transitional. but created forms based upon new principles. the ﬁrst and third acts. We must not regard the use here of variations. there came the much discussed utilization of certain “old forms.
Passacaglia 5. Marie’s remorse Death of Marie Wozzeck tries to forget Wozzeck drowns in the pond 1. Largo 4. Invention on a Rhythm 4. Rhapsody 3. 4. 4. 3. Wozzeck’s ﬁrst suspicion Wozzeck is mocked Wozzeck accuses Marie Marie and Drum-Major dance The Drum-Major trounces Wozzeck 1. 3. 2. 5. Sonata-Form 2. Military March and Cradle Song 4. Andante Affetuoso (quasi Rondo) ACT II: D´ nouement e Wozzeck is gradually convinced of Marie’s inﬁdelity Scene Symphony in ﬁve movements Scene 1. Fantasie and Fugue 3. 4. Suite 2.SCHEME of the Dramatic and Musical Forms in Wozzeck D RAMATIC ACT I: Exposition Wozzeck and his relation to his environment Scene Scene M USICAL Five Character Sketches 1. Invention on a Tone 3. Rondo Martiale ACT III: Catastrophe Wozzeck murders Marie and atones through suicide Scene Scene Six Inventions 1. Invention on a Key (D-minor) (Instrumental interlude with closed curtain) 5. 2. Scherzo 5. The Captain Andres Marie The Physician The Drum-Major 1. Invention on a Theme 2. Invention on a Persistant Rhythm (Perpetuum Mobile) Willi Reich A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck . 5. Marie’s son plays unconcerned 5. 2. 3.
It was natural to ﬁnd a small form for each one of these.” Willi Reich A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck . with almost mathematical accuracy 3 . however. Herr Hauptmann (3) Wozzeck --. the reprises. though their selection might have been determined subconsciously the result is not accidental. This consists largely of old (or at least more or less stylized) forms. is made up of diverse. Herr Hauptmann. the appropriate historical color which naturally enough. 3 4 Herr Hauptman Wir ar me Leute! This is one of Berg’s most commonly applied artistic devices and assures metric uniformity to whole scenes. Wozzeck’s great outburst comes in the form of an “air” and its climax is the cry: “Wir arme Leut” (3) which is really the most important motive of the whole opera. the dialog here. the composer does not employ elsewhere in Wozzeck. (1) The Captain The only answer Wozzeck knows is the stereotyped “Jawohl. that is. evolves from the one preceding it. The ﬁrst movement of the suite is a prelude. The two lascivious meditations of the Captain are spun into cadences (viola and contra-bassoon). gigue. The gavotte and the two “doubles” are in two-part form. The transitional music uses the principal themes of the suite in the fashion of a development and ends abruptly after a stretto-like climax. even musically. But even in the purely musical sense strict rules are generally applied. crescendo roll of the small drum 4 . where nothing really occurs. that is. the cadences are free. In the instrumentation. and not only to the most prominent melodic episodes. their combination being brought into relation with the events on the stage. gavotte with two doubles. The ﬁrst three measures are used later in this scene in the manner of a refrain. gigue and air). Three part forms are used mostly (prelude. (2) Wozzeck -. Berg once said about this beginning: “The drum-roll originally was intended to accentuate the crescendo between the two chords. indeed. The very ﬁrst scene of the opera is cast as a suite apparently because. Every new tempo. a drama of no particular period. as can be seen by the metronome ﬁgures. I was surprised to ﬁnd that I could not have suggested the military background more precisely and concisely than through this roll of the drum. rhythmic motive. The succeeding conversations are musically portrayed through the forms pavane. For by this choice the ﬁrst scene gains. The soothing words of the Captain lead into the reprise of the prelude which corresponds to a repetition in the conversation and appears in the form of a crab-like inversion.” (2) which becomes especially signiﬁcant as a characteristic.Wir arme Leute! Ja wohl. are not mere repetitions but always far-reaching forms of variations. Measure four brings the theme of the Captain (1) whose motive constituents yield the material for the further construction of the piece. which as a whole group constitute a series of small music pieces. a suite. the different movements are distinguished by assigning a certain instrumental group to each as an obligato. pavane. loosely connected conversations. whole acts. and. though. musical.ANALYSIS OF THE INDIVIDUAL SCENES ACT I—Exposition SCENE 1. It was to be purely instrumental. When I heard the part for the ﬁrst time.Jawohl. It is introduced by two short chords of the strings interconnected by a soft. The following analysis will show how the choice of these small forms accurately corresponds to the events on the stage and how their union into a musico-dramatic entity is thereby facilitated.
dominant and subdominant. for instance. establishing a relationship within his opera between formal and folk music. The music of this scene. ranging from a toneless whisper to the authentic bel parlare of far-reaching speechmelodies. too. departs from the familiar forms of the one preceding and seeks new bases. if tonality is held to be a structural medium. But on the contrary. in the so-called “atonal” harmony. whereas in the atonal music of the Viennese school diminished and augmented intervals predominate.” This scene dies away on a military signal and slowly yields to the approaching march of the stage-band. Of course the manner in which the chords and their successions are employed is manifold and varied throughout.Opening Measures This hunting song is an example of the composer’s ingenuity in creating a proper place for folk song elements. it is not so easy to make that difference in plan clear.SCENE 2. in other words. Wozzeck’s friend. above which arches the eerie sky of a late afternoon. In this scene the “rhythmic declamation” introduced by Sch¨ nberg in the spoken o choruses of Die Gl¨ ckliche Hand appears for the ﬁrst time in the opera. moreover. The sudden interruption and quick blotting out of the stretta prepare us for a different world in the next scene. in accordance with the well-known patterns of this type of piece. So-called “polytonality” is also a means of building up primitive harmonic effects. Such a principle is recognizable as form-shaping. may be preserved. Act I. The narrow and musty barrack-room fades into air before the elemental forces of the open ﬁeld. which forms the second musical component of this scene. 5 Willi Reich A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck . created from the purest sources of music. Scene 2 I II III Since the composer has designated the musical form of the second scene a “rhapsody” we would naturally expect to ﬁnd a structure of free fantasy. Here it was accomplished by giving an obvious primitiveness—practicable even in atonal harmony—to all popular elements. Other means which might be noted are a preference for symmetrical construction of periods and phrases. Its color is derived entirely from Wozzeck’s uncanny reaction to inanimate nature and his exulting superstition. we shall therefore. quote Berg’s own words u about this important means of expression: “It had become plain that this method (the sprech-stimme) of treating the voice in a music drama not only strengthened one of the best mediums for making such a work comprehensible—namely the words— but enriched the opera by the addition of a genuine means of artistic expression. Berg’s strong leaning towards form has led him even here to create a structure completely fulﬁlling the most exacting musical strictures. we may compare these three chords in relation to the functions of tonic. (4) Chordal Structure. Thus. While in a tonal work it is a mere commonplace. through recitative. harmonic construction by thirds and fourths. (5) Military March --. In addition to the three-chord motive (4) there is a ”Hunting Song” 5 by Andres. a melodic line in which the whole-tone scale and the perfect fourth play an important part. Its unifying principle is a harmonic one: three chords (4) make up the skeletal structure of this scene. all possibilities of form in absolute music which are lost. like a potpourri.
Marie’s waiting (8) Wozzeck’s knocking at Marie’s window SCENE 4.e. it bears the closest relation to the dramatic action. a waiting which is terminated only by her death 7 . harmonically. of durchkomponieren) using the leit-motive only as a means of support. Similar repetitions are made with other motives. Twenty-one variations follow which are true For the folk music elements in the “Cradle Song” and “March” the footnote to the “Hunting Song” is equally valid. I emphasize this particular idiosyncrasy here.. First of all. It is hardly necessary to note that its development by variation is not achieved mechanically or even by means of pure. absolute music. 7 6 Willi Reich ¡ A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck . scene.Plaintive Theme The song rigidly observes the two strophe form and is one of the most beautiful and signiﬁcant melodic inspirations of the opera6 . and the consequents in great variation. (6) Marie --. The composer deliberately sought to create a delightful alternation through contrast of this free structure with the rigid forms encompassing it. expressing the speech of the physician though concealed in the animated rubato of a cello-recitative. unconstrained technic of composition of the post-Wagnerian style. Strings and voice bring a new signiﬁcant motive (6). A short thematic development leads us into the next scene. From here on the musical structure abandons all formal schemes of unity and suggests the free. With (5) we have the opening motive of the military march which is important later. because it is the only place in Wozzeck where it occurs. The open ﬁfths represent the somewhat aimless waiting of Marie. (7) Transitional Cadence --. A lively ﬁrst part is followed by a very much slower second whose beginning has already been foreshadowed in the introduction to the song. The repetition of (7) is interrupted by the swiftly intruding ﬁgure of Wozzeck suddenly knocking at the window (8). The series appears for the ﬁrst time with the opening words of the. which was so prone to develop long stretches of the text in this manner. The coordination and relation of recurrent motives are thus employed as another means of establishing unity in the opera. by the chords of the second inversion which prevail throughout. (i.SCENE 3. which may be considered a sort of introduction to her “Cradle Song. Even the introduction of the twelve-tone series has a basis in the drama. one of the most important motives of the opera. During its repetition it becomes suddenly inaudible when the window is shut. This device (used as a sort of leit-motive) recurs several times later on. the “lament” of Marie. applying at times to certain characters and sometimes to certain situations. The line of the twelve-tone passacaglia theme is presented in (9). From this a cadential transition (7) is developed as an ending.” The characteristic fourths of the latter are anticipated melodically by tympani and harp. The second verse repeats the two antecedents literally. it closes with an instrumental coda which is again based on the beginning.
more often entering into their inner facture. for here Marie is seduced by the Drum-Major. From (11) a motive is developed which characterizes the conceited. It is the most important in the development of the plot.variations. scientiﬁc attitude of the physician.” To his great satisfaction he read: “the folia (id´ ﬁxe) is evidently one of the oldest forms ee of the ostinato.The Variation Link 3 3 3 Was er leb’ 3 ich. First comes the phrase (10) which grows out of the end of (9) and through its ﬁrst part (mostly presented in the position F-Ab-D) gains a signiﬁcant function as the connecting link between the variations. apparently entirely improvised.” He had unconsciously fulﬁlled the literal meaning of the term. Even Marie to a certain extent adopts the language of her abductor. their victim and his. Musically the scene characterizes the brutality of the Drum-Major. with which the doctor accompanies the recitative-like introduction of the passacaglia-theme. When ﬁnally. and is later also employed for contrapuntal treatment. Wozzeck? 3 (11) The Physician’s Obsessive conceit in science Geb’ ich Ihm da fur al le Ta ge drei Gro schen? Woz zeck! SCENE 5. with the same ﬁxed ideas 8 of the physician. in the last variation. (9) The Passacaglia’s 12-tone series In the parlando. a characteristic which it shares with the other ﬁnal scenes. the theme. the most vaulting of his delusions. dealing with one and the same theme. (10) Development from (9) --. harmonized in chorale fashion in the full orchestra. which suggest his themes. which ﬁnd their echo even when Wozzeck. Over a tympani roll on D# fragments of (10) bring on the close of the scene. an event which is the immediate cause of the conﬂict and tragic catastrophe. speaks in his torture. her role containing many phrases. Berg wished to be informed as to the origin of the word “Passacaglia. only to be quickly subdued after a repetition of chord (4) and to return to the matter of fact dialog of the beginning of the scene.” He consulted Riemami’s Lexicon and found reference to its synonym “Folia. he breaks out in a cry of desire for immortality. two motives occur which are important in view of what follows. surges up with greater clarity. Willi Reich A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck . with its deliberate gradation of intensity represents the growing scientiﬁc megalomania of the Doctor.Marie and the Drum-Major 8 Long after the composition of Wozzeck. (12) Rondo Theme --. more or less concealed during the passacaglia. With its sixty-two measures the last scene of this act is the shortest. The whole chain of variations.
The transformation music is given independent life. just that part of the scene in which the main ﬁgures (human as well as musical) are in conﬂict. the chord (14). On the other hand a certain three-part structure is also evident. shows how the transition from the chord to the last reprise is effected. then the collision of the main characters. the recurrent “Wir arme Leut” (3).” frequently interrupted by short interpolations. This scene also brings three people on the stage. my wages. becomes a small unit. second and closing theme. in the middle it is considerably overshadowed by the attack motive (13). but their relation is not as close as that of the three members of the family group in the preceding one. The whole dramatic development of this “Jewel Scene.. a musical form whose Willi Reich A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck .” the twofold recurrence of certain situations. most palpably because at the moment where the transformation sets in. Marie. (13) The Attack 3 (14) Concluding Chord of Act I ACT II—D´ nouement e SCENE 1. not inaccurate to regard its form as a sort of free rondo. are sung to a held C-major triad of the orchestra. whereby the connection with the next scene is made. Whereas the ﬁrst could employ the sonata. (12) fundamentally an “Andante affetuoso. With a mighty crescendo. in which the ﬁrst reprise follows immediately after the exposition.Recurrent from Act I. (15) The Physician --. The development. the end is indicated when the effect is repeated. the second ascending pianissimo. really relates to and completes it). therefore. sounded in an increasingly rapid tremolando over the organ-point G–D. Scene 4 (16) Wozzeck --. which is obviously related to the events on the stage (the preliminaries. a harp glissando suggests a beginning.The important theme of this scene. Scene 1 3 3 SCENE 2. the ﬁrst time descending fortissimo. recurs always with but slight variation. brings this important act devoted to the exposition to a close.Recurrent from Act II. When the Drum-Major has disappeared into the house with Marie the theme (12) is heard across the empty stage. is money once more. leads to the climax of the sonata. (How could the prosaicness of money be better expressed!) The rest of the music of this scene and of the intermission which follows (but musically. serve as the basis for the three thematic groups of a sonata exposition: the main. Marie. Although the rondo theme (12) is well marked in the ﬁrst and third sections. It is no mere coincidence that the three characters in this scene. that is. her child and Wozzeck.” etc. The ﬁrst musical section of the second act is in sonata form. clearly repeating it although in an abridged form and with variations. the seduction and the aftermath). in distorted rhythm. the motive which permeates the whole piece. facilitates a strictly musical division. The words of Wozzeck “Here. It is.
SCENE 4. a The L¨ ndler. Willi Reich A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck . The journeyman’s a song which represented the ﬁrst trio is so changed in its repetition. The transformation music comes to a sudden stop with the “snoring chorus” of the soldiers in the guard room based upon the above-mentioned chord (4). tavern-band!) the sense of confusion results. waltz) is not literal but much varied. Aside from the obvious thematic coordination which makes it a complete movement. but not arbitrary. In the L¨ ndler and in the other dance-music there are passages which seem to have a dissonance not a merely within a tonality. and returns properly to the tonic (G-minor). in contrast to the closer melodic interrelation of those in the foregoing sonata. the hunting chorus of young fellows—the middle section of the whole—a second trio.parts are organically connected like that of a family. and on the other a regular (but parodied) ﬁve-part chorale transcription. Moreover. is placed in an entirely new environment. and become ﬁxed as the ﬁrst harmonic foundations of its theme. also quite in conformity to rule. For example: the antecedent of a L andler in Gminor ¨ according to the rules may progress to the dominant (D-major) or return to the tonic. The L¨ ndler is the ﬁrst idea of the scherzo. these clarinet ﬁgures also lead into the transformation-music which introduces the next scene with a slow country dance. In accordance with the regular construction of such scherzo movements (let us take for example those of Schumann’s symphonies!) a repetition of the ﬁrst three-part scherzo-group follows. Since both these forms occur simultaneously (natural enough in a drunken. corresponding to the course of the action. that the fundamental harmonies are split up to make a chorale melody in half-notes. is on the one hand the repeated ﬁrst trio. but also from the rationale of the music. the good-natured parody of a sermon. irresponsible. This effect. makes the strictly fugal form necessary. the waltz a of the ale-house band. which in retrogressive movement again forms the very clarinet ﬁgures from which the chord developed. we ﬁnd this idiosyncrasy: the instrumentation is that of a chamber symphony and corresponds exactly to that employed by Arnold Sch¨ nberg in his Kammersymphonie. The end of the Largo closes with the same harmony. SCENE 5. a dissonance rather like the sounding together of several pieces of music in different keys.” This melodrama. its rigidity somewhat relieved by the use of motives which are already familiar. The slow movement of this symphonic act is a Largo. usually achieved by returning to the main key. The “Rondo-Martiale” which brings this act to a close is then introduced. can be gained by other means. while the other part. though not presented literally. and ﬁnally a Wozzeck theme (16) which. serving at the same time as the transformation-music to the next scene. but in an extended form. This effect is sustained when one part of the band modulates to the dominant. disparate elements. The deﬁnite independence of the motives of these themes. To be sure the repetition of these three small forms (L¨ ndler. The clarinet ﬁgures apparently quickly departing from the fugal thematic material of the preceding scene. lead over to the beginning of the Largo. the second scherzo. modulates at the same time to a related major key (Eb-major). The repetition ﬁnally of the tavern-band waltz occurs not only as a waltz. it is derived not only from the dramatic situations. though exactly repeated. Intended as a natural sound. Thus Berg does homage o here to his teacher and master. The introduction and close of the Largo furnish another example of how coherence. for example. song. which. We ﬁnd that of the Captain (1) which dominates the ﬁrst scene at the very beginning of the opera. is clearly suggested in the preceding sonata-form. played by the bombardon. a symbolic development for full orchestra. It is indeed a miracle that they should ﬁnd themselves together again at the end of the L andler! ¨ The tavern scene introduced by the L andler corresponds to the scherzo in the dramatic symphony which this second ¨ act represents. it is heard at ﬁrst before the curtain rises. lays the foundation for a “melodrama. a fantasy and fugue with three themes. arising from primitive “polytonality” is of course deliberate. The journeyman’s song represents the ﬁrst trio. then a motive of the Physician (15) recurrent from the fourth scene of Act I. SCENE 3. here the form is constructed of more alien.
It appears here again in the greatest variety of ways. There are further musical allusions to the text in details. The low B of the contrabasses. Finally when the murder of Marie occurs to the fortissimo crescendo roll of the tympani.” is signiﬁcant from the dramatic point of view in one of the important later scenes and that it also acquires a structural function. has seven bars. leaving the low B as the ﬁnal sound. construction of a rondo on the theme (17). as an organ-point. The act closes on chord (14) which is used in all the act-endings. as a stationary middle or upper voice. Here again is a device for achieving coherence. doubled in many octaves and heard in all conceivable registers and colors. the tonality of the ﬁfth variation set off against the atonality of the work lends it a characteristic and delicate symbolism of the transcendental world of fairy-tales. through-out the scene. all her important musical motives are sounded in precipitate succession over this organ point of B—as in the moment of death all the important occurrences of life are believed to pass rapidly and in distortion before the mind of the dying person: the cradle-song of her ﬁrst scene. one after the other. the theme of her vain waiting. how ridiculous it was. beginning with the softest imaginable. contrasts Marie’s objective reading of the Bible with her subjective reﬂections. 9 Willi Reich A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck . For instance. It gradually resolves into its constituents. the ﬁrst scene of the third act contains an invention on a theme.The scene presents the conﬂict between the Drum-Major and the jealous Wozzeck who is ﬁnally defeated. the only note of the entire scale. was not given. as a matter of fact. The introduction of the persecution motive (8) in the sixth variation takes place in the manner of a leit-motive supporting Marie’s speech on the absence of Wozzeck. now becomes the unifying factor. which.) (17) Second Rondo Theme --. but here in the scene which unfolds according to military regulations and discipline. more-over the concluding double-fugue. Thus on the occasion of Wozzeck’s ﬁrst concert presentation a critic discussed the Bible-scene. which was heard in the ﬁnal chord of the fugue (also as the last tone of the important concluding cadence of the second act). the strictest rules are applied to the. The principle of this construction is taken from the poetic text. The severity of the architecture (an expression intentionally used by Berg in this connection) leads to the following construction: the two-part theme. the coordinating principle of the murder scene. and ﬁnally evolving to its highest powers through the entrance.” “Einer nach dem andern. SCENE 2. of It is of course very easy to poke fun at the mathematics of this form. as well as in the theme. which. of the lament on her misery which ﬁnally melts into the motive in ﬁfths.Wozzeck and the Drum-Major The dramatic similarity of the two act-endings would of itself have brought about a musical parallel. reminiscences of the jewel scene in the second act. consisting of antecedent and consequent. corresponding to this two-part form. The brief transformation music brings this underlying B forward once more. which ended with her surrender. it might be mentioned that this low B which accompanies the prophetic last words: “Er blut. has two seven-tone themes 9 . (The tussle which takes place is musically identical with the struggle between the Drum-Major and Marie in the last scene of the preceding act. even of the Drum-Major. the muted horn. To anticipate. present in almost all the instruments of the full orchestra. it recurs seven times in varied forms. Even though no note of that music had yet been heard the clairvoyant critic could attest and already communicate to his readers how badly such a mathematical division stood the test. This time it is employed as a unison. In the passionate Andante of the earlier episode the rondo-form is merely suggested. As has been said. ACT III—Catastrophe SCENE 1.
contracted. Structural unity in this piece. Furthermore it is expanded. This rhythm lies at the foundation of the new scene. to all conceivable alterations. whose D-minor indicates the resolution of the former 10 . The rhythm just spoken of. but in a way that permits the greatest metrical differentiation within a quasi-rhythmical uniformity. This six-tone chord. on only one of the steps of the chromatic scale. Finally (in the third part) when it reverts to its original position. of the corresponding transformation. (18) Transformation chord. In this case. as has been pointed out. Thus melodies are based on this rhythm. so to speak. based primarily upon harmonies and chordal combinations whatever its melodic twists. illogical sound-effects. has already been announced in the earlier short transformation music with its tremendous dynamic crescendo on B. the thematic six-tone group is the basis. INTERLUDE. (For instance. Such impressionism as one may seem to ﬁnd in these and in other places of the opera. The entrances of the winds as well as those of the strings make distinct rhythms. 10 It is evident that such music. and. Actually. of which the listener is. but follow a peculiar rhythmic principle. interlocking in the form of a canon of a quarter-note shift. replacement of groups and changes in register of all or a part of its tones. ﬁrst tonal. shifted. three-part form. to Debussy. with the addition of the entire percussion. is assured by the old reliable. as little aware as of the logical arrangement of the entrances. conspicuous in every measure. what seems impressionistic here is far removed from vague. Act III. symmetrical. the waves of the pond closing over the drowning Wozzeck. such as divisions. a gesture made by the author outside the circle of events seen on the stage. the croaking toads. variety is achieved here by subjecting the chord. of course. even as an appeal to the audience in their role of humanity’s protagonist. is of course not accidental. or the rhythm may appear in the accompaniment. Scenes 3 to 4 SCENE 3. now rhythmical. To be sure. as in the quick polka of the intoxicated boys and girls which opens the scene. or rather. the rising moon.) Nevertheless Berg made no attempt here to ape that style which one attributes to the French School. a group of six tones (18). to its tonal center. Like the chord (18) which ﬁrst leads to this crescendo climax. that is. this chord at the same time forms the harmonic transition to the one that follows. naturally. inversions. it is not applied in the form of a monotonous ostinato. which is based solely on a chord. musically determined law. SCENE 4. A somewhat longer orchestral piece succeeds the fourth scene. The apparent irregularity so created. guarantees a deﬁnite unity. as was done with the single tone and the rhythm. on the other hand. Everything is constructed according to a strict. From the dramatic point of view it should be considered the epilog to Wozzeck’s suicide. (the “objectivity” is older than the modern slogan) may be found in the fourth scene. and in the imperishable nature-impressionism of Wagner.each member of the ensemble. A further example of such exploitation of musical material. It is also the harmonic completion for the close of the preceding scene. This is of course appropriate for dramatic events concerned exclusively with nature and natural episodes. It is to be observed that these consecutive entrances do not occur at regular intervals. and in the second scene of the ﬁrst act it is an ostinato three-cord succession. inasmuch as in the ﬁrst and third parts the chord occurs in all its variations. it is of important thematic signiﬁcance. The music of this orchestral interlude is a thematic development of all the important forms used in relation to Wozzeck. etc. except the percussion. retains a strongly impressionistic character. divided into triplets and ﬁnally interlocked in two and more canonic entrances. The fact is that this crescendo has a greater dynamic effect and intensity than its recurrence on B in various registers. Willi Reich A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck . appears also in the writings of the classicists and romanticists. while in the middle section it works its way to all the others. seems to breathe an exceptionally strong life into this crescendo tone. In spite of the persistence of this six-tone group. changed by different time signatures.
leads back to the D-minor of the reprise. those easiest to execute without dramatic representation. the only one of all Sch¨ nberg’s pupils who had never been professionally concerned with the theatre. Though it contains all the twelve tones. manner of anticipatory stretti. SCENE 5. No publisher thought of accepting this monstrosity and even after Berg had brought out his own edition of the piano-score. The “Impossible” Opera “Years passed. But again several years passed by. were scattered to the four winds as conductors. A few selections from Wozzeck. For a long time he gave free instruction to this pupil. but never an idea of the ways of publicity and success. a harmonic tonal combination results as if of its own volition. This brought the second surprise: the opera whose effect as a drama had in no way been indicated by its concert success at Frankfort and whose most intricate score had now ﬁrst become a reality. Though here a cadence is clearly made to the ﬁnal chord (14). old and new. 1923. Gustav Mahler. a perpetuum mobile). His talent was discovered by Sch¨ nberg. demanding the o unattainable of singers and orchestra. “The success was tremendous. a few friends were privileged to see the manuscript. was composing on B¨ chner’s o u Wozzeck. requests for copies were made only by good friends in his own circle who usually received them forthwith. is tonality (D-minor). the music seems still to be going forward. one day it was decided to present Berg’s music at a festival in Frankfurt. were grouped by Berg for concert performance and played at Frankfurt. in its eighth-note activity. Alban Berg was one of these young men. When the others. they expressed admiration and astonishment but considered it absolutely impossible of performance.” says Jalowitz. They possessed only o an enthusiasm for their teacher.” The scene portrays the behavior and play of proletarian children. Among friends and the initiated there grew up a legend that Berg. when it was completed in 1920. a warm respect for the composer-conductor. he alone remained in Vienna. who seemed to know so little of life. His name had meanwhile become better known through frequent performances of the Piano Sonata and a String Quartet. according to the old system of form. electriﬁed and overwhelmed the audience at the premiere and continued to do so at the ten following performances. the musical revolutionary who pursued his creative life apart from the busy world. Then came the ﬁrst surprise. their studies completed. one of whom is the infant of Marie and Wozzeek. Then came the third surprise—the work was retained in the Berlin repertory. It seemed as if Berg had ruthlessly applied Sch¨ nberg’s polyphonic writing to the opera. THE HISTORY OF THE OPERA “More than twenty-ﬁve years ago. where the fantasia-like entrances. Work on this opera took about six years. the coordinating principle. a knowledge of the masters they adored. Berg who had been standing on the side-lines. “a number of students gathered together in Vienna around Arnold Sch¨ nberg. really one of those systems of rules which Berg was so often obliged to “create in order that he might follow them. In 1925 Kleiber found the courage to present the whole work upon the principal stage of the Reich. It does indeed go on! As a matter of fact the ﬁrst measure of the opera could be directly attached to these concluding bars. crowd upon one another to a climax. persisting from the ﬁrst to the last measure (one could really term this. acting on the jury of a new society for creative musicians o which had been organized as a sort of musical secession. The scene with the children which concludes this act. in the ﬁeld of this tonality it operates only as a dominant which. follows a certain law. at that period without means. in the. undergoes such unlimited expansion as to permit its every possibility to be ﬁnally and exhaustively developed.The form is three-part. And this because in the middle section of the piece. sounding naturally and harmonically. and one of the quietest and least obviously active of the group. still unaware that it has just been orphaned. whereby the circle would be closed. renouncing every practical pursuit to live entirely for creative work. became the hero of the festival. who had written only intimate songs and chamber-music. Gradually it has made its Willi Reich A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck . This D-minor tonality (whose introduction into the harmony has just been discussed). for a change. where it remains to this day.
and to the small provincial town of Oldenburg belongs the distinction of completely shattering the ﬁction of the “insurmountable difﬁculties of Wozzeck. it has been presented there on more than twenty-ﬁve stages. only to disappear the more quickly despite their attempt at simple comprehensibility and modernity. In the fall of 1930 Kleiber performed the Three Fragments from the opera at Carnegie Hall. the latter was the high point of the Li` ge music-festival and presented the e work to a large international audience. it is to be expected that a new high peak in the destiny of the work will be reached. an event reminiscent of the Tannhauser premiere in Paris. under his direction. The former ﬁnally brought Berg the recognition long due from his native city. In 1926 Wozzeck encountered a stronger opposition in Prague where the third performance at the Czech National Theatre was abruptly brought to a close by the planned demonstration of a nationalistic group.” From Berlin to America The ﬁrst Berlin performances drew a few attacks from reactionary quarters but these were decisively routed by expert critics who stood at the top of their profession.” Further important Wozzeck premieres took place in 1930 in Vienna and Aachen. and has survived the success of operas more rapidly composed. and on March 19.way over the whole of Germany. In 1927 Leningrad presented a splendid performance. 1931 Leopold Stokowski presented the brilliant stage premiere in Philadelphia. With the New York performance. those more readily accepted. Most recently auspicious is the course of Wozzeck in America. Willi Reich A Guide to Alban Berg’s Opera Wozzeck .
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